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Wholistic center celebrates quarter century of healing hands
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Heartland Center for Wholistic Health staff are, back row, from left: Ruth Trahan, massage therapist and reflexologist; Dr. Amy Antle, chiropractor; Jessica Bitter Williams, massage therapist; and Sister Anita Schugart, O.P., director. Front row: Sister Cecilia Ann Stremel, O.P., office manager, and Carol Snook, receptionist. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

The “Heartland” ministries of Great Bend’s Dominican Sisters of Peace have always been intended to address body, mind and spirit. One of those ministries, the Heartland Center for Wholistic Health at 1005 Williams St., is celebrating 25 years.
Sister Anita Schugart opened the center in January of 1988, after studying to become a massage therapist. The business moved from its 12th St. location to the present location, on Williams just off 10th Street, in 1989. Sister Cecilia Ann Stremel, a former elementary teacher, next joined Sister Anita after learning reflexology. Twenty-five years later, both are still on the job, along with four other staff members, offering therapeutic massage, reflexology, chiropractic care and items such as liquid vitamins, natural products and homeopathic remedies.
“We do all kinds of therapeutic massage,” Sister Anita said. But they also touch clients emotionally. “We want to be very respectful of everyone who comes in.”
Dr. Amy Antle, a chiropractor, sees about 15 people a day, and the staff does about 1,000 massages a year.
Dr. Andy Hefner, ND, of Hefner Health Center in Great Bend is a consultant.
The Heartland Center for Spirituality at the Dominican Sisters of Peace Motherhouse and the Heartland Farm in rural Pawnee Rock are the other “Heartland” ministries that came about after a meeting in the 1980s. Members of what was then the Dominican Sisters of the Plains discussed future ministries.
In the 20th century, Dominicans were best known for their work in health care and education. In Great Bend, that included St. Rose Hospital – later known as Central Kansas Medical Center, and now as St. Rose Ambulatory & Surgery Center – and St. Rose and St. Patrick schools, which are now combined as Holy Family School.
Sister Anita did some teaching, then worked at St. Catherine Hospital in Garden City for 20 years, including 10 as the chief executive officer, before attending Dr. Jay Victor Sherer’s Academy of Natural Healing in Santa Fe, N.M., to study massage and natural and alternative therapies.
“I wanted a hands-on ministry, so this is what I chose,” she said.
Massage therapy is much better known today than it was 25 years ago, especially in central Kansas. When the Heartland Center for Wholistic Health opened its doors, it actually created something of a stir. Catholic Sisters are doing massage!?
Today there are other businesses that offer therapeutic massage, but the one sponsored by the Dominican Sisters of Peace is the only one with a mission statement that includes these words: “Heartland Ministries is inspired by the spirit of St. Dominic and the Gospel of Jesus.”
“People feel a peacefulness about being here,” Sister Cecilia Ann said.
They hope all who walk through their doors will be touched spiritually as well as physically, as they follow the credo, “To cure sometimes, treat often, comfort always.”